The fourth and final theme I wish to identify in the discourse of supply stems from my observation that the overwhelming majority of tract developments employ a Mediterranean style of architecture (See Illustration 2). Often, names evocative of the Mediterranean are assigned to the tract and floor plans: Corsica; Mallorca; Martica; Marbrissa; St. Laurent. That this last tract name seeks to evoke the French Riviera is made explicit in the titles of its floor plans--The Capri; The Riviera; The Monte Carlo; The St. Tropez--and in the following excerpt from the sales brochure:
Experience the sun soaked Mediterranean flavor of St. Laurent...distinctive homes styled for you, the discriminating homebuyer.
St. Laurent offers an incomparable world of space and light, reflecting the serenity and beauty of the Riviera.
Capturing the architectural essence of the Mediterranean, St. Laurent is a charming blend of tile roofs, clerestory windows, arched doorways and finely detailed interiors.
With mountain views and clear desert air, your St. Laurent home creates the perfect setting for al fresco living.
(St. Laurent pamphlet)
Another brochure puts its claim more succinctly: "An essence of the Mediterranean...reflected in the beauty of the Antelope Valley." Even the development with the rather Anglo sounding name, The Arbors, boasts of: "Sunny Mediterranean architecture of richly detailed pastel stucco and robust tile". It seems that, like water and electricity, history and geography, too, must be imported to make the desert habitable.
A few tract developments make historico-geographic reference to Britain, Waterford, Briar Wood, which clearly reflects a wider American tendency to associate things English with "class". In his book on the American status system, Paul Fussell relates the following, rather appropriate anecdote:
. . . the appeal of Anglophilia to even the middle class should never be underestimated. I say this on the evidence of a correspondence I once had with a friend of mine, a "developer" or mass house contractor who built whole new towns at once. Having run out of names for his streets, he solicited my help. . .He asked me to supply him with an alphabetical list of classy--that is, British--street names that would attract the eminently middle-class buyers of his houses. . . .I sent him a list. . .which started like this:
- Devonshire, etc.
Fussell continues by noting the existence of tract suburbs in Houston bearing such "egregious British names" as: Nottingham Oaks, Afton Oaks, and even, Sherwood Forest (Fussell 1983:75).
However, the overwhelming tendency in Antelope Valley is to historical and geographical evocations of the Mediterranean. This is in keeping with a dominant theme in the history of American housing, namely, that of building within the (real or imagined) historic traditions of a particular area and taking into account its climate and local building materials (Wright 1981: 85-86, 106-107, 200). As one pamphlet expresses it: "You'll feel right at home here. Because every home works in perfect harmony with its environment".
The Mediterranean allusion takes many forms and mantels and is sometimes labeled "Spanish Colonial, "Grecian" or "Southwest", but usually simply "Mediterranean". This Mediterranean analogy is so integral to California, that historian Kevin Starr devotes an entire chapter to it in his book Americans and the California Dream (1973: 365-414). Starr explains the sources and extent of the Mediterranean analogy, writing:
As evident from its scattered manifestations, Mediterraneanism was neither a process nor a program, although the Spanish Revival did mass under the banner of architecture a variety of South-seeking impulses. Yet as an analogy and as a metaphor, Mediterraneanism arose from a cluster of stable influences--landscape, climate, and the Hispanic past being among the most convincing. Surfacing early, the spell of California-as-South remained a point of reference down through the years. . . It challenged Californians to achieve something better in the manner of American living: to design their cities and homes with reference to the poetry of the past and in harmony with the land and the smiling sun. . . It celebrated the vine as a symbol of maturity and it introduced to agriculture sun-loving trees which coaxed forth the Mediterranean implications of the landscape and filled American marketplaces with dates and figs and olives. (1973: 413)
It is my contention that the Mediterranean metaphor has been so widely favored in the suburban tract developments of Antelope Valley (footnote 21) because it collapses into one imagery the means by which two great ruptures--one natural, one historical--can be bridged.
First, let me tell of the rupture of nature. The inverse fortunes of nature and technological progress run like a fault line throughout the whole of American social history. Indeed, this is one source of the American impulse to build in harmony with the landscape. As industrial progress steadily consumes and transforms nature, building in nature's image is offered in recompense. Thus, one Antelope Valley developer flogs his wares with the slogan: "great employment opportunities to historic recreation areas [i.e. Angeles National Forest], Lancaster offers a careful balance of man and nature". Yet, the all too well-known "machine in the garden" narrative is not the only story of nature's rupture: there is also the rupture in nature-as-space.
In Antelope Valley, as in most American suburbs past and present, the conflict of man and nature--a favorite topic of human storytellers--is cast in terms of escape from the pollution, congestion, and crime of the city. Antelope Valley is marketed as "safe and tranquil", "a quiet kind of place" "secluded from Los Angeles' hurried pace". As one brochure puts it:
Like an enchanting Mediterranean island village, Corsica is a welcome retreat from city life. The pace is unhurried. The surroundings inspiring. . . A sea of Spanish tile roofs blend with wood and stucco to create a colorful street scene... Everything you need for gracious living in a private island setting is here. Come, escape to Corsica.
Via the Mediterranean metaphor, developers market elements of nature --light, space, air--as commodities.
This reappropriation of nature through consumption, not only works to bridge the man/nature, city/country dualisms, it also serves to conceal ruptures in the social fabric by transposing them onto space. That is, the pace of the city, its crime, congestion, pollution--in short, the conditions that prompt "escape"--stem from the social division of labor under capitalism. First, it is this division which enables rationalized, industrial production; and this production which produces pollution, dense urban centers, and the uneven distribution of means associated with crime. Yet, the argument that the industrial and residential spatial differentiation of the capitalist city results from the social division of labor is far more complex than this homily would have it. Such an argument must be explained in terms of the logic of capital, as Richard Walker (1977) and David Harvey (1978) have done. Though I will furnish further explanation in my final analysis of the discourse of supply, let me simply claim here that as an escape from the city, the suburbs put a distance between those who can afford to get away and those who cannot. Thus, a social distance is expressed as a physical one, for social differentiation has been mapped onto nature as spatial differentiation. Expressing social rupture as spatial rupture--the physical divide between city and suburb--serves to "banish the facts of production" and perpetuate class differentiation. Thus, the middle-class suburban family can enjoy the natural environment and grow unaware of the industrial conditions of their existence; isolated from the polluting influences of the city, their children can grow to be middle-class. As Walker puts it in his analysis of suburbanization in the United States:
Spatial and social division have evolved hand in hand, as the particular cultural solution to the problems of class reproduction. Such things as imbuing neighborhood landscapes with class values and putting boundaries around the experience of children and adults have been essential in the creation of socially separated experiences. The process of suburbanization has, in fact, been one and the same with the process of creating a certain form of middle-class lifestyle. (1981: 393)
As I said earlier, the Mediterranean metaphor also works to bridge an historical rupture. By bringing an imagined history of continuity to Antelope Valley, this metaphor serves the ideological function of all foundation myths. As Holston (1989: 67) explains:
foundation myths have the function of transforming history into nature . . .they present as naturally given or received, as sacred, eternal, ideal, or universal, events and relations which are in fact the products of history. As Malinowski (1954:125) concludes, 'myths serve to cover certain inconsistencies created by historical events, rather than record these events exactly.' As a mechanism for reworking the historical record, they generally fulfill a certain sociological function which is to interpret the present by recourse to precedents beyond the bounds of history. Such validations involve a complementary process: on the one hand, a recapitulation of the past in present practice. . .on the other, a naturalization of the present by projecting it as an always-has-been past. (1989:67)
Thus, ensconced in his or her Mediterranean style villa, the Antelope Valley suburbanite can bask in the reflected prestige of the Spanish colonials and Mexican rancheros without considering the specific historical processes by which Alta California came to be the United States. The violence and rupture of the conquest is glossed over in metaphor: the red tile roofs and pastel stucco deny them, saying "how can Hispanic culture have been vanquished, it is still here!" The Mediterraneanism of tract housing offers an ideal union of past and present, the mediation of opposites so common to myths of origin (Holston 1989: 66). In the sales literature, this mediation takes the form of offering a quiet rustic atmosphere together with every modern technological convenience, from building materials to bathroom fixtures. As one brochure expresses it: "by following the classic lines of Mediterranean architecture and using quality construction throughout, Mallorca offers today's family the best of both the old and the new". The mediation of opposites, of nature and progress, as well as past and present, has been an enduring theme in the history of American housing, as the following statement about Victorian era suburbs shows:
Subdividers promised the felicitous unity of urban comforts and rustic simplicity, progress and nostalgia that characterized the ideal American community. (Wright 1981: 104)
In the final section of my analysis, I will discuss the ideal American community relating it, with my four analytic themes, to the capitalist social order.
"What we call the Protestant Ethic, the use of worldly loss and gain to symbolize heavenly standing, appear in Walden as some last suffocation of the soul. America and its Christianity have become perfect, dreamlike literalizations or parodies of themselves."
Stanley Cavell, The Senses of Walden
So many who have written of the American ideal of community have traced its origin in John Winthrop's exhortation to his Puritan congregation enroute to build their new community in the New World: "We must consider that we shall be like a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us" (in Lukas 1985: 74). Kevin Starr has written of "that ideal polity . . . that City upon a Hill, ever haunting the American imagination (1973:97); and Gwendolyn Wright, describing the influence of this ideal polity in our nation's founding, writes:
Like Jefferson, other national spokesmen also claimed that certain fundamental social freedoms were necessary in a good society and that certain fundamental institutions had to be protected in order to balance individual autonomy. One of the most important institutions was the family, for it was considered the source of public virtue as well as the haven of private well-being and stability. . . [The] Puritan ideal of the home as a 'little common wealth" and the state as a collective representation of individual households remained a cornerstone for the new nation. But if Americans were, in fact, to create an ideal commonwealth, it seemed essential that this concept have tangible form. (1981: 22)
As surely as the Puritan ideal polity is the cultural-historical (footnote 22) basis for the deep association of home and family that was my first analytic theme, the capitalist relations of production are its material basis. Though I have already acknowledged a full account of this argument to be beyond the scope of my paper, I shall briefly substantiate my claim.
House and family--the architectural and kinship forms fused in the appellation "single-family dwelling"--have come to be bound up as they are in the United States today through the development of industrial capitalism. The central process in the development of capitalism was primitive accumulation, the necessary condition for capitalism's emergence in England, and its subsequent transplanting to America. Primitive accumulation was a two part process consisting first of the amassing of free laborers; and second, of the accumulation of merchant capital. In England, the first was accomplished by the enclosures which drove peasants from the land that was their means of subsistence and forced them to sell their labor on the market as a commodity. The second was accomplished through the mercantilist putting-out system, the profits of the slave trade and other forms of colonial exploitation. Together the processes by which wage-labor and merchant capital were amassed, and turned to industrial capitalist production, worked to intensify a pre-existing division between the private realm of the household and the public realm of the market. As capitalist industrialization progressed, the domestic industries of mercantilism were destroyed and production was transferred from the household to the factory. "The first and most fundamental result of this 'formal subsumption of labor by capital' was to separate production from consumption [and reproduction] as functions and as places--the workplace versus the home" (Walker: 1981:386).
In America, the industrial division between a private realm of reproduction and consumption and a public realm of production transformed the content, but not the form, of the Puritan ideal polity. That is, the ideal of home as "little commonwealth" had taken shape within an agrarian and mercantilist economy where the system and scale of social relations were such that kinship ties (the social relations of reproduction) were indeed a viable model for political ties. However, the removal of production from the household undermined this viability by undermining the corporate power of kinship; intensifying the split between private and public; and replacing patriarchal authority as the mechanism of social order, with the a basic set of individual rights and the legal contract. If the ideal correspondence of household and polity were to be preserved amid the processes transforming the premodern patriarchal family into the modern nuclear family, it, too required transformation. Excluded from production and diminishing in size within a rapidly expanding society, the emerging modern family had only consumptive and reproductive functions to implicate it into the developing social order. That is, the separation of private and public constituted a rift between household and polity: the functional and ideological solution to this rift within American capitalist society has consisted of reasserting the ties between family and the wider social order via consumption and social reproduction--the remaining "points of contact" between the two. Let me explain this reassertion by relating it to the residential life that is the central topic of this paper.
As Richard Walker argues, the spatially differentiated residential pattern, or suburbanization, of which Antelope Valley is an example "has been constructed around a definite mode of reproduction carved out by the early bourgeoisie and carried forward . . .by the upper middle class since the later nineteenth century" (1981: 392). Walker continues:
This mode has as its basic building blocks the so-called nuclear family, the single-family home, homeownership, the neighborhood school, and a certain limited type of 'community', conjoined within a localized political jurisdiction. All are constitutive social constructs about which volumes could be written. . . The dominant classes have, in fact, constructed a veritable set of 'cults' around the above pillars of their mode of life: a 'cult of domesticity', to borrow Ryan's felicitous phrase, and complementary cults of the home-as-castle, of neighborhood schools and of community. The term 'cult' is useful because it connotes the element of ideology and experience embodied in these institutions of socialization and social reproduction. The purpose of these institutions has been to send the working father back into the fray rejuvenated, to optimize the life-chances of children, to avoid falling back into the working class, and to reproduce a mode of life--for what is involved here is . . .a whole constellation of mutually supporting values, experiences and social resources which go into the construction of human beings. (1981:392, emphasis added)
In our capitalist, state society, these institutions of middle class socialization and social reproduction--the nuclear family, single-family homeownership, school--are to be found in suburbs such as Antelope Valley. I have already related the first and final of my four analytic themes to the capitalist social order: (1) I have shown that the suburban "constellation" of home-family-community connects private and public, individual and society, via consumption and social reproduction; (4) I have shown how historical and spatial transpositions, or metaphors, work to gloss over the social division of labor as a spatial division, and the territorial appropriation of conquest as a history of continuity. Thus, the second and third themes I have identified within the discourse of supply remain to be related to the capitalist social order.
I have referred to the second theme in my analysis of the discourse of supply as the paradox of individualism. As noted above, Bellah et al. discuss American individualism, which arose within the development of industrial, capitalist, state society, in terms of a lack of any cultural standard by which to guide and judge behavior, a lack of consensus about ideals, other than the minimal, atomistic ones of profit, private property, individual freedom and voluntary contracts. (footnote 23) Given this lack, they argue, the only "cultural standards against which status can be measured are the gross standards of income and consumption" (Bellah et al. 1985: 49). What Bellah et al. fail to account for is why status ranking should take this individualistic form in the first place. That is, in non-capitalist societies, the terms and categories of status hierarchy are presupposed in, that is structured by, some cultural system, kinship or religion, for example. Thus, what structure can be seen in the practice of measuring social status in terms of accumulation and consumption? I would argue that this practice is structured by an ideological conception of society as a ladder (my third theme) and by social relations of production which embody class stratification. Thus, as a site of consumption, the suburban house is imbricated with the process of social reproduction which reproduces a middle class mode of life. In his theory of suburbanization, Walker connects the pursuit of class and individual identity in consumption to alienation in the social relations of production:
This becomes a matter of intense personal concern moreover given the degree of alienation in production and from production and the consequent self-realization through commodities in capitalist society, not to mention the sheer promotion of a consumerist way of life by capital out of its own realization problem (Walker 1981: 390)
In this way, the themes of paradoxical individualism and "the social ladder" identified in my analysis of the discourse of supply are deeply embedded within the institutions and social order of American capitalism. Walker has found it useful to speak about the institutions of consumption and reproduction that intersect in the suburban house as "cults" to emphasize both ideology and experience. My analysis in this section, by focusing on structures in the discourse of supply, has not touched on the experience of that social construct which is the suburban, single-family home. I now turn to examine this experience as it is articulated in Antelope Valley's discourse of demand.